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Faculty Sponsor

Heather Salge

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of English and Linguistics

Student Department/Program

Department of Biology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


History classes are generally well known for their extensive coverage of the world wars, battles, and conflicts that have shaped our society into its current form. However, the few fleeting moments in history during which nonviolent resistance succeeded on a large scale are often mentioned and subsequently dismissed. These pivotal world events are acknowledged, and as a populace we often feel accomplished knowing that the human race avoided bloodshed on some occasions, but not much thought is usually given to the strength and sacrifice it took to bring about such beneficial change. It does not take much more than a mere glance at one’s local news channel to come to the conclusion that we live in a violent world. Most civilians are aware of major nonviolent movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Indian Independence Movement, but there are major misconceptions about the process behind them. Nonviolent resistance as an option for solving issues, from personal to global, has become strictly theoretical. Now may just be the time to make the effort to learn about what nonviolent resistance truly means, due to the fact that the choices we make today may help determine what occurs tomorrow.

The reasons why nonviolence is perceived so inaccurately today range from the confusion and difficulty that arises upon its implementation, to the lack of situations that permit its success. In a perfect world, nonviolent resistance could solve every issue. The unfortunate reality is that we live in a world that is anything but perfect, and that nonviolence may not always be the answer.

Each and every living being has a theoretical line that, once crossed, permits the use of violence as a means to an end. In other words, we use our judgment to decide when violence must be used to achieve a goal, and this can range from always to never. This is where the idea of just war becomes a crucial concept to understand. Just war is only to be implemented when it is morally justifiable and it is possible to attain success with lasting peace.

It becomes clear through much research that nonviolence is very possible, but only under very specific conditions. Some of the main reasons why nonviolent movements in India and the United States have worked are the integration of various societal strata, the inclusion of a concrete goal and mission statement, consideration of the time period and strategic use of resources. Nonviolence is based on the premise that the opponent considers the resister valuable. Therefore, in situations like those that deal with genocide, nonviolence is almost impossible to implement. Just war, although unfavorable to some, may be the only option that we can hope to succeed with. There are many misconceptions about nonviolence and just war, and this paper goes into great detail to enhance the reader’s understanding of both processes.


Arts and Humanities | History

The Permissibility of Nonviolent Resistance and the Concept of Just War

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